Buying a bike computer does more for you than just keep track of your speed. It can display your trip distance and duration, heart rate, structured training, and much more.
This can be a necessity if you’re trying to beat your personal best or just want to keep data on your bike progress.
But, the first ask yourself, which one suits your training and racing style?
This often depends on your needs.
The Top 5 Best Bike Computers in 2019
|Garmin Edge 830 Cycling Computer|
Best Value for Money
|Garmin Edge 530 Cycling Computer|
Best Garmin Alternative
|Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM Bike Computer|
|Garmin Edge 1030 Cycling Computer|
With Action Camera
|XPLOVA X5 Evo Smart Video Cycling Computer|
In this part of the article, I’ll review 13 bike computers. My hope is that this will help narrow down your search.
1. Garmin Edge 830
The Garmin Edge 830 has all the same features as the Garmin Edge 530, but this one has touch screen capabilities.
This might make it easier to program everything during the initial set up or if you want to change between road and mountain biking modes.
The other big difference is battery life. The Garmin Edge 530 has about 10-15 hours if you optimize the battery. But this one has up to 40 hours of battery life if you keep it on battery save mode or use the Garmin Charge power pack.
Everything mentioned in the previous review applies to this bike computer. But, here are a few features I saved to write about in this one.
When it comes to helping you train, the Garmin Edge 830 has your back. You have the ability to sync structured workouts from TrainingPeaks and the online training community called Garmin Connect. You can also view your workouts for the week and select the relevant ones easily.
I didn’t leave out a detail about the safety features from the previous review and this one has all the same ones from the Garmin Edge 530.
If you ride on the trails, here are some details I saved for this review. Trailforks offers trail maps for over 80 countries with the most up-to-date information, which includes trail conditions, heat maps, and other relevant information. If you stop in the middle of your ride, the app can show you upcoming forks in the trail with the context of a bigger map.
Other widgets you can use to customize your Garmin bike computer include AccuWeather, MinuteCast, Strava, Koomoot, or Wikiloc.
Athletes who have bought the bike computer like it for its long battery life, compared to the Edge 530, and the touch screen capability. The one glitch some users have is with the training program. It only supports structured workouts from TrainingPeaks. You can download Strava but you have to run the app during your ride, which uses the battery.
I recommend this bike computer to those who want all the features of a mid-range computer, like the Edge 530, but with touchscreen capabilities. It depends on your comfort and if you think a touch screen is easier to use on the road or not.
2. Garmin Edge 530
The Garmin Edge 530 is a “performance” GPS bike computer with mapping capabilities. It’s versatile for road bikers who also like to go mountain biking on the weekends.
For the road, the Garmin Edge 530 has a dynamic performance that can track your VO2, recovery, training load focus, heat and altitude acclimation, nutrition, and hydration and many more to choose from. Those are just the basics to start.
If you like to go off-road, you can re-program the computer by using the Trailforks app from the Connect IQ store. Basically, it will keep track of the number of jumps, jump distance and hang time, and the jump’s difficulty. It can also track your “flow” which determines how smoothly you descended a hill.
If you know the roads like the back of your hand or are in a new city, this bike computer is preloaded with the Garmin Cycle Map. This includes turn-by-turn directions and even alerts you when a turn is coming up. If you get lost or want to route back to home, the computer has the technology that’s even faster than previous models.
The computer helps keep you safe while riding either solo, commuting to work, or with a training group. The computer allows for group messaging and tracking. This would be helpful whenever you get dropped from the group.
Building on safety, this computer has incident detection and will send your location to emergency contacts.
To keep your bike from being stolen, there’s a new PIN-protected bike alarm that will notify your phone if your bike is moved while you’re refilling your water.
You can turn your computer into a personal coach since it gives you comprehensive and helpful insights. For example, the computer can tell you how your body is holding up against the weather elements. If you want, you can get ride notifications when it’s time to hydrate or eat or even take a small break.
If you decide to bundle with accessories (cadence, speed, heart rate, etc.) the computer will show how your progress and compare your metrics from previous rides.
Have trouble conquering hills?
This bike computer has the new ClimbPro feature that tells you where you are on the hill and much more you have to climb.
As with any Garmin device, you can customize your computer with free apps, widget and data fields from their Connect IQ Store.
Cyclists who have bought it, like it because it is easy to use and it’s not overloaded with too many apps, widgets, sensors, and other options. Be warned that when loaded up with many apps, the battery life doesn’t last long. Other complaints include that iPhones had a hard time connecting to the bike computer.
I recommend this bike computer to those who want one that has some features of a premium-level computer but is easier to use and has better battery life. It might be a good bike computer if you’re looking for your first one. It has more than basic functions and you have the option to bundle sensors with it. Even if you don’t use the sensors right away, they’ll be there when you do want to use them.
3. Wahoo Elemnt Roam
The Wahoo Elemnt Roam GPS bike computer has the most helpful and practical features needed for all your rides. For starters, if you get lost on your ride, the device has “Back on Track” technology that will help you get to your destination. Additionally, GPS can give you turn-by-turn directions or the quickest way to the grocery store.
This is the first Wahoo bike computer that comes with full color with Gorilla Glass to make it easier to see your routes and data. This means you can spend more time with your eyes on the road.
The screen also has an ambient light sensor so the backlight and LED automatically adjust based on lighting conditions indoors and outdoors.
This bike computer is categorized as “wireless” so there’s no plugin required except if you’re charging it. You don’t need to connect the computer to your device to sync ride data, download apps, or updates software. It can all be done through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or ANT +. This saves you time on the computer so you can ride more miles on your bike.
If you’re a fan of Strava you can sync your account with the computer. All your routes will be saved and will automatically download onto the bike computer. Of course, if you use Bluetooth, you can sync any route you want to the computer with Wi-Fi.
TrainingPeaks is another training program that the bike computer supports. In fact, the training program is already integrated onto the computer so you can see your training plan, past workouts, and all the data is sent back to apps automatically.
If you have a KICKR smart trainer this computer can sync up to whatever of the three workouts (KICKR, KICKR CORE, KICKR SNAP) you want to do. The computer will automatically change resistance based on the elevation profile of your route.
Similar to previously reviewed computers, this one does have live tracking and text, email, and phone alerts technologies. Live Track lets you share a link so that others can follow your ride in real-time on the web portal. This is a great option so your family members can be sure you’re safe or if your coach wants to know where you’re riding.
If you ride with your smartphone, your computer can give you alerts when important calls or texts come in. This feature can easily be turned off with “do not disturb” mode.
People who have bought this bike computer like it because it’s easy to use and set up so they can get on the road faster. The large screen is very easy to see during the daylight and during night rides. And, the battery life is decent even though the computer is “loaded” with apps and different technologies. Athletes with KICKR smart trainers love that it’s compatible and they don’t need to use different computers during winter training sessions.
I recommend this bike computer for those who want one with a lot of different technologies and is compatible with KICKR Smart Trainers. Even if you don’t have a smart trainer, you can still use it for indoor training. This computer is a good option for those who use Strava or TrainingPeaks since it is easy to set up.
4. Garmin Edge 1030
The Garmin Edge 1030 is several steps above the previous Garmin devices I reviewed. To start, this one has GPS navigation along with connection features.
The bike computer has the most up-to-date navigation tools and is compatible with other Garmin accessories so you can get the most from each ride. And, the device’s awareness technologies help keeps you safe on the road.
As mentioned before, the computer is preloaded with the most updated maps and can give you turn-by-turn direction along with notifications if you have a sharp turn coming up. The GPS navigation can even give you a round trip based on roads and trails most traveled by the Garmin Connect online community.
If you get lost, the computer can route you back onto your ride or back home. The battery life is long enough that you can take the computer on a day-long ride. And, if you get separated from the group or get a flat, you can message your status to your group mates.
Unlike the other Garmin devices, this one goes above sending a message if you get in an accident. You can respond to missed calls or texts with prewritten messages. And, you can let your friends and family know where you are in real time with LiveTrack and GroupTrack. Both apps can be downloaded from the Garmin Connect IQ store.
This specific bike computer comes with a specialized mount that keeps it in line with the handlebars instead of above them. It gives your device a lower profile and it makes it easier to switch out optional accessories such as the battery power pack.
This device works with both Strava and TrainingPeaks so you don’t have to choose between them.
On Strava and TrainingPeaks, you can choose a structured workout or a manual one. It keeps track of all your stats just the same and even compares it to your previous workouts. Only on Strava can you wirelessly upload your routes onto your bike computer.
The computer comes with the app Best Bike Split which lets you see how changes in your weight, power, and drag affect your race goal time and then creates an ideal power plan for race day. All you need to do is sync your Best Bike Split account with the Edge and you’re set to go!
The Edge can help you monitor your progress during training with its new Training Status tool. This automatically evaluates and analyzes your exercise history and performance metrics to let you know if you’re training productively, overdoing it, or under training.
Athlets who have bought it loved it for all its advanced and helpful features. They like that the device works with Strava so there’s not an extra step when you set up the device the first time. The touch screen capability is great and makes it easier to program either pre-or mid-ride.
I recommend this bike computer to those who want a premium-level one that has many capabilities and advanced technologies. If you’re a Strava user, this one will sync up perfectly and nearly seamlessly. The pre-programmed messages are a big plus if you don’t want to bring your phone with you.
5. XPLOVA X5 Evo
The Xplova X5 Evo is a GPS bike computer with an action camera; it’s novel in the bike computer market. Now, you can track your rides, video record it and then share with your friends, family and even coach. The camera is also great to have if you get in an accident. You can at least get the license plate number.
The computer is touchscreen compatible with color. On the dashboard, you have rotary “speedo” dials for speed, heart rate, and cadence with the required sensors. Additionally, you can view a bar chart of your recorded metrics after your ride. You can upload your data to apps such as Strava.
The Smart Route Planning and Smartsign Guidance allows you to map out a point by point ride and then upload it to your bike computer. Or, if you prefer, you can plan your own rides your points of interest or landmarks to the map. You can remind yourself of steep hills or sharp turns.
The main feature of this device is its recording capability. You can record in three different modes:
- Data-linked- Automatically records when you hit a pre-determined speed, power, distance, etc.
- Dash Cam- The device can serve as a dash cam and provide quality evidence if you get in an accident.
- Loop- After your ride, you can edit your footage, add music and data overlays.
Cyclists who have bought it like it because it has GPS and a lot of features in one “spot” so there are fewer things to attach to your handlebars. The touchscreen can be well seen and is very responsive. Free maps and the SmartSign feature is really helpful for planning your own routes.
I’d recommend this bike computer who want an “all-in-one” option that is reasonably priced. It’s easy to pair a cadence sensor via Bluetooth or ANT+.
6. Pioneer SGX-CA600
The Pioneer SGX-CA600 bike computer is designed for all the cyclist explorers out there. It’s a Bluetooth Low Energy connected GPS Navigation Cycle computer that is perfect if you train with Pioneer Power Meters.
The bike computer is not touchscreen compatible, but it does have six buttons to control the 2.2” screen.
The computer was designed with Intuitive GPS navigation to make it easier to explore new roads on easy-to-read maps. The GPS can give your turn-by-turn messaging, highlighted route navigation, cue sheet directions, and corner scaling. Bonus, if you use Strava or Ride with GPS you can download routes from those service onto the computer. All to give you a better ride experience.
Pioneer has Cyclo-Sphere Control App that allows you to set-up and configure your bike computer easily. Even if you don’t have your bike computer with you, your smartphone can keep track of all your data with the Cyclo-Sphere phone app.
After your workout, you can see your data and analyze it through the Cyclo-Sphere app or whatever training app you prefer.
This computer does have connectivity options and can easily be synced with your smartphone via Bluetooth, ANT +, ANT + FEC, and Wi-Fi. And, you can upload your ride history and data to any training app you use.
You also have the option to receive your calls, texts, and email notifications while you’re riding. You cannot respond to any of the notifications.
If you decide to get the optional pedal monitor, you’ll be able to see your force vector, torque vector, and pedaling efficiency. This should help you improve your technique and become a faster and stronger cyclist.
Athletes who have bought the bike computer have mixed reviews. Some really like it because the sensors don’t drop out and the calibration on the computer works; along with many layouts for the data screens. But the screen isn’t visible when you are riding in daylight. Many have complained that downloading training apps such as TrainingPeaks or Strava was not possible. A few were able to figure it out.
I would recommend this computer after you read a few more reviews about it and talk to a local bike store. The computer has so many issues and maybe a bike shop can talk you through them. Otherwise, I’d pass over this one.
7. Wahoo Elemnt Bolt GPS Bike Computer
The main difference between this Wahoo bike computer and the previous one is how it was designed. It has nearly all the same features as the other one except this one was designed so that it is more aerodynamic when it’s mounted on your bike.
The bike computer was built to be put in front of your bike instead of on top of the handlebars in behind them. When the computer is placed in front of the bike it becomes a Computational Fluid Design that was highly and rigorously tested to be aerodynamic.
Compared to the previous Wahoo bike computer, this one was not made with Gorilla Glass, which shouldn’t be a deal breaker. All it means is that this screen does not have as sharp a picture as the other.
Both have diagonal screens. This one has a 2.2” screen while the other has a 2.7” color screen. There’s nothing wrong with having a smaller screen without color. It depends on your preferences and what’s you’re comfortable with.
Like the other Wahoo bike computer, you can expect it to sync well with Strava and TrainingPeaks so it will save you time setting up your computer. You can also set up real-time tracking and get text, email, and call notifications if you wish. All of it works the same way.
Cyclisths who have bought it, like it for all the same reasons as the other Wahoo bike computer. They chose this one because they were more concerned about the aerodynamics of it or wanted to spend less on a comparable bike computer. The screen size is smaller so many athletes didn’t want a big screen to distract them on the road.
I recommend this bike computer if you’re interested in the Wahoo Elemnt Roam GPS bike computer, but don’t want to pay more for it. This one has all the same features as the other one and works the same. The screen is smaller compared to the other one and doesn’t have Gorilla Glass or a color screen. If this is a deal breaker for you, then you might want to buy the other one.
8. Polar V650 GPS Cycle Computer
The Polar GPS Cycle bike computer is equipped with a color touchscreen and gives you detailed data and guidance so you get the most from every training ride for race day.
The map system on this one is simpler compared to the other bike computers previously reviewed. This computer has OpenStreetMap (OSM) on its system. This lets you download the map data for the area you’re currently riding in. And, you can see where you are in real-time.
If you use Polar Flow you can sync your favorite routes from there onto the Polar bike computer. It can guide you in real-time or discover new routes from other digital users.
The screen can display map data in blocks of 450 x 450 km at a time, which is more than enough for even your long rides.
The bike computer also supports the popular training app Strava. If you use Strava Live Segments, the computer alerts you when approaching one of your starred Strava segments. The app can also give you real-time data on your bike performance and shows the results post-workout.
If you want to keep track of more metrics, you can use sensors. This bike computer supports Polar Bluetooth Low Energy heart rate sensor and third-party sensors.
Polar also offers its online coaching tool to help you create a training program and track your progress. The program can explain what type of benefit you get from each workout if that will help motivate you. And, with the Train Load feature, you’ll know how your most previous workout affected you in the long run. You’ll know precisely how intensely you trained and how much recovery time you need until next time.
Cyclists who have bought the computer are often first-time buyers. They want a simple one with some GPS function and a few apps they can use. It’s great for that purpose, but it doesn’t go beyond that. On occasion, people have had problems connecting sensors, but after scrolling through the options it syncs up right away.
I’d recommend this bike computer to those who are buying their first one or know they don’t need a lot of technology on their bike. It covers the basics and takes it a step further with the optional online coaching application. It can help beginner bikers stay on track be accountable for their training plan.
9. Lezyne Mega C GPS Bike Computer
Although this very beginner-friendly and basic bike computer looks tiny it packs several key features to help make your rides more enjoyable. It doesn’t matter if you’re a road, mountain, or race cyclist, this has something for you.
To start, let’s talk about the computer’s GPS capabilities. The computer can give you turn-by-turn directions when it’s paired with an iOS or Android device that has the Ally V2 app installed. When you sync your smartphone with the computer, it can also support Strava Live Segments and phone notifications (incoming calls, texts, and some messaging app).
When you have the Ally V2 app, you can easily customize through the app, choose pre-downloaded maps, and some offline navigation.
Along with its GPS capabilities, the GPS device can record and display data when it’s paired with ANT + or Bluetooth Smart enabled power meters, heart monitors and speed/cadence sensors. If you have a compatible shifting system, the device can also record electronic drivetrain information.
Surprisingly, this device can live track your ride when you use Lezyne Track, an app on the bike computer. And, you can follow structured workouts from Today’s Route and TrainingPeaks.
The connectivity options are limited to the ones talked about in this review. It doesn’t show all the maps instantly, you must upload them from files on your computer. So, this limits the turn-by-turn directions if you go too far off your route.
Cyclists who have bought the device like it for its simplicity and the numerous metrics it can track, which is comparable to a mid-level bike computer. The most trouble people have run into deals with the connectivity. It’s limited and the options that do work aren’t streamlined as well as other bike computers on the market.
I’d recommend this device if you want a simple bike computer that can track many metrics, but don’t care so much about the connectivity features. Be aware that you must pre-upload your maps before you get on the road. Otherwise, you might run into some trouble there.
10. Bryton Rider 450 (Aero 60)
Although this bike computer was made for mountain bikers, a road cyclist and triathlete in training can get a lot out of it.
To start, the OpenStreetMap (OSM) gives you comprehensive map options and can even locate where you are and help direct you home. All of this is displayed on a 2.3” large screen so you can easily see all your data. The screen can fit up to 10 data per page if you wish.
The computer supports up to 78 metrics and functions so you’ll always have something to improve on.
If you have Shimano Di2, SRAM eTap, or Campagnolos EPS, the device can support your electronic gear shifting. Instead of guessing or checking your crankset and cassette, the device will show you information such as gear ratio and battery life of ESS.
If you have either ANT + or BLE sensors, they will work with the device after you sync them.
Through BLE you also can get notifications from your phone for calls, emails, or text messages.
Your data is recorded on the Bryton Active app and then you can analyze your ride’s results, view your progress with graphical analysis. And, you can share your rides on social media if you want. With this app, you can sync and plan your workout outs, download preplanned trips, modify device and grid settings, and calibrate altitude.
If you have accounts with Strava, TrainingPeaks, or SelfLoops, they auto sync with the Bryton Active app. This might save you time and possible frustration during the initial set-up.
From your smartphone, you can customize your display screen once it’s synced with the Bryton Active app. You can change it as often as you change your training and racing goals. It’s simpler than doing it all from the device’s screen.
Triathletes and cyclists who have bought this bike computer like it because it has comprehensive maps and it’s easy to set up. It saves time and frustration when Strava and TrainingPeaks accounts automatically sync. Most cyclists don’t have to worry about where their ride data and progress is stored. It’s all right where they can find it. Cyclists like that the display screen can be customized with their phones. Sometimes it’s hard to customize the screen on the device itself.
I recommend this bike computer if you are an avid and adventurous road cyclist. You won’t get lost with this device and if you do get lost, the device can route you back home. If you like exploring, you can mark all your favorite spots on the map or point out sharp turn or steep climbs on a race course.
11. Wahoo Elemnt Mini
The Wahoo Elemnt packs a lot of data support into a small bike computer. It works with Wahoo dual-band sensors exclusively and had two different configurations to meet your training goals.
When you buy this bike computer it comes with Wahoo RPM speed sensors so you won’t have to buy them separately.
The computer comes with Elemnt companion app, which helps you set-up a profile, track performance and progress, and shares your ride data. If you pair the bike computer with your phone, you can live track your app for your friends. If paired with your phone, you can also receive call and text notifications.
There are two configurations, as mentioned before. You can track your RPM speed with the included sensor and it works with the Elemnt Companion app. Or, you can sync your smartphone, still track your data while receiving your call and text notifications.
If you have Bluetooth, you can upload your ride data or update the computer’s software through it.
Cyclists who have bought it like it since it is easy to set up and the RPM sensor is included. The computer is so small that it isn’t intrusive on the bike. It’s nice to have everything set in front of the bike. There are reports of the companion app freezing after a couple of weeks of use. Some claim that if the computer’s software or Elemnt companion app is updated it won’t freeze or it won’t freeze as much. There are mixed reviews about the performance of the computer after the initial set up.
I recommend this bike computer to those who want a small one. Just be aware that some people have better luck with the device after the initial set up than others. Good luck there.
12. Cat Eye Padrone Smart +
This bike computer is fully customizable and connects with your smartphone, which makes syncing with any training apps easier than other computers.
This computer’s screen can display simple yet comprehensive navigation, incoming call or message notifications, and Shimano DI2 F/R gear information. Of course, all of this can be customized so you can see what is relevant and most important to you.
Other stats that can be displayed are current, max, and average speed, power, altitude, and incline, total distance, trip distance and much more. Just go and explore what the computer offers.
The bike computer “communicates” with your smartphone via Bluetooth so you can easily set it up, get alerts while riding, and mimic your phone screen to your computer display. After your ride, you can upload your route and data online.
Athletes who have bought this bike computer like it because it is simple to use and easy to set up. They like that the computer offers to track the most common metrics, but doesn’t overload the options. Some have had problems with the sensors so be sure to set it up right. And, not all smartphones are supported.
I recommend this bike computer if you’re looking for a simple one that can cover the “basic” metrics without overpowering you with too many to choose from. Be sure to check if your smartphone is compatible before buying it. The sensors don’t always work so that might not be a problem if you don’t use sensors.
13. Cat Eye Strada Wireless
This is the “slimmer” version of the original Strada wireless computer. It’s very basic with a standard sensor and a limited number of functions.
This product would be ideal for those who don’t want a high-tech computer and be overwhelmed with too many features.
Since this is a simple computer, it doesn’t sync with a smartphone. So, if you want to track your rides and share your ride data, you’ll need to bring your smartphone on your rides with you.
The computer can track your current/average/maximum speed, trip distance, total distance, elapsed time, and it has a clock.
Some features include pace arrow, a customizable display, programmable odometer, and a handful more.
People who have bought the device like it is easy to use and durable even during a crash. Just be sure to check your tire size so that the computer accurately tracks your distance and speed! A small mishap can give you the wrong data. When compared to a sports app, it is a little off, but not by much.
I recommend this to those who want a simple and durable computer.
Bike Computers – Buyer’s Guide
There’s a lot of information out there about bike computers and their functions. It can be hard to sort through.
You might wonder to yourself:
- What features do I need?
- ANT+ or Bluetooth or both?
- What is the battery life on different models?
- Can it sync with my smartphone or computer?
- Do I need extra sensors?
I’ll break down the information for you so it will be easier to make an informed decision. In fact, you might be able to walk into the store with a couple of models in mind already.
Type of Bike Computers
There are three main types of bike computers (basic, mid-range, and premium) and the prices go up with each type. Each succeeding category adds on more features to the bike computer offered.
Basic Bike Computers
There’s nothing wrong with buying a basic bike computer.
They’re great for beginners or those who know they don’t ever want more features.
For a basic bike computer, you can expect it to keep track of speed, distance, ride duration, and time.
It’s unlikely that these computers have any connectivity features such as syncing with a smartphone or Strava. But it will most likely have USB support so you can charge it.
This really shouldn’t be an issue if you don’t need a bike computer with many features.
Mid-Range Bike Computers
A few steps up from basic bike computers, mid-range ones offer a wider range of features.
If you buy a mid-range bike computer, you’ll have a bigger display, customizable color screen, navigation, connectivity options (BT, ANT +, Wi-Fi), and instant upload to your apps such as Strava.
If are looking for a mid-range bike computer, look for ones that are a step or several above basic ones. Not all the mid-range ones have all the features mentioned above so you can save some money.
Premium Bike Computers
Premium bike computers are for those who want one that is similar to biking with a smartphone.
Premium bike computers take the features found on mid-range ones and take them to the next level. These computers can offer advanced navigation, training modes, increased storage options, long-lasting batteries, sharper displays, bigger screens and a handful more.
Bike Computer Extras
Bike computers than fall in the mid-range to premium often come bundled with different accessories such as the heart rate monitor, speed sensor, and cadence sensors.
All these accessories are completely optional and depend on your needs.
If you want to keep track of your cadence then go ahead and get the sensor.
Nearly all these sensors are ANT + or Bluetooth compatible and tend to work with other brands since these sensors are industry standardized.
Screen, User Interface, and Usability
When it comes down to the final decision, it’s often determined by the computer’s ease of use and the type of interface you like.
Keep in mind, some bike computers have fully customizable screens with many data field options, while others don’t.
Some have touch screen capability, while others are button operated, and the last group is a hybrid of both.
Again, it comes to your personal preference and what you’re comfortable handling on your bike.
A general rule of thumb, the more features your bike computer has the shorter the battery life will be.
If you decide to buy a bike computer with a large and clear screen that displays color and connectivity options, odds are that the battery life won’t be that great.
On the other hand, if you opt for a more basic computer with monochrome displays and limited connectivity options, its battery life will be long.
Some GPS bike computers have a built-in rechargeable battery that can last up to 20 hours compared to a smartphone which lasts 8 hours max.
Connectivity for Transferring and Storing Data
This feature would typically be found on mid-range and premium level bike computers. This feature might be a “make it or break it” feature depending on your biking needs.
If you’re using apps such as Strava or MapMyRide, sensors that track your heart rate, you’ll want to look at bike computers that have ANT + and/or Bluetooth capabilities.
Again, the lower in the price you go, the fewer connectivity options you’ll have. At the very least, you’ll have a USB connection.
Keep in mind, not everyone needs or wants to share their bike data with their friends, family, coaches, or even on social media. If this isn’t you, then don’t worry about this section. A basic bike computer will do the job for you.
If you’ve seen bike computers mounted on bikes, they’re typically found in the center of the handlebars.
This is one option that people have like but it comes with some disadvantages. Mounting your computer in the middle of the handlebars makes it harder for you to focus on the road and occasionally look at the screen.
If you end up looking at the screen you have to look away from the road and instead in front of you.
Due to this positioning issue, many cyclists have decided to mount the computer in front of the handlebars instead of behind. This computer is still in the center of the handlebars.
With the computer there, it means you spend less time looking away from the road.
These front-of-bike mounts are great since they can be adjusted up or down depending on your viewing preference.
Ask yourself, do you need navigation? How often do you go on unfamiliar roads?
If you enjoy going on and exploring new roads, then you might want a bike computer with navigation capabilities. This would be useful you like creating routes on your computer. You can do so and then upload it onto your computer for turn-by-turn navigation.
Cadence and Speed Sensors
Do you need a cadence or speed sensor?
However, they can be useful if you’re trying to achieve a specific goal during training or on race day.
Speed sensors come bundled with the most premium and some mid-range bike computers. You’ll need a computer that has GPS capabilities. Your speed is calculated using GPS signals. The downside is if you ride in rural areas, you might not get an accurate reading.
Cadence sensors are nice to have but not necessary. You’ll more likely to see cyclists with speed sensors than cadence. This sensor is only useful if training for a specific cadence. Otherwise, it’s just nice to have.
Syncing to a Smartphone
Yes, you can sync the data from your bike computer to your phone as long as your phone supports Bluetooth.
You’ll need to have either Garmin Connect, Wahoo Elemnt or Lezyne Ally downloaded on your phone to make it work.
Once your phone and bike computer is synced, you’ll be able to see incoming calls and messages.
Sync to Strava
Strava seems to be the “hot” athletic app these days and it’s no surprise that most people asked if the computer can be synced to it.
The answer is “yes”.
If the bike computer has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities, you’ll link Strava during the initial set-up and you’ll be all set to go.
If you have a basic bike computer, you’ll need to download it onto your computer using your USB cord.
Bike Computer and Indoor Trainers
If you have a Smart Trainer you can use your bike computer. Or, if your bike trainer supports ANT + FE-C.
With a Smart Trainer and a bike computer you have a few options:
- Ride a virtual course – You can create or upload a ride from Strava and the trainer will mimic the resistance you’d feel as if you were outside.
- Ride a previous workout – Re-ride your favorite route from summer in the winter.
- Ride a structured workout – You can upload a workout from your computer and it will sync with your trainer and adjust the resistance accordingly.
- Ride manual workout – You can decide when to put on or take off resistance.
I hope that this article has given you some direction to start your search for a bike computer. Remember to access your biking needs and habits, training goals, and racing. This would help you pick what computer might be good for you.
Good luck with your search and happy cycling!